FIN.PART: JUST BEGINNING IN CALIFORNIA

Byline: Kristin Young

LOS ANGELES — Fin.part is not exactly fretting these days. Not when it comes to building its Frette and Henry Cotton’s brands with stores in California.
Frette is in retail-expansion mode, thanks in no small part to the acquisition over a year ago by Italian group Fin.part, a parent company that has put the wheels in motion for the 150-year-old high-end Italian home-linen house. And Frette has chosen the Golden State for three stores. Henry Cotton’s, the women’s and men’s sportswear firm, is also preparing to open two stores in the region.
Gianluigi Facchini, chairman and chief executive officer of Fin.part, said that building both brands in the region is a no-brainer.
“There is the attention to self-indulgence [in California],” said Facchini, speaking via telephone from the company’s headquarters in Milan. “The Frette concept perfectly fits with this approach of self-pampering and finding time to spend on treating yourself.”
Last month, two Frette flagships opened, including a 3,600-square-foot store at 124 Geary Street in San Francisco and a 4,000-square-foot unit at 259 North Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The Beverly Hills unit is about three times the size of the former Frette store, which was at 449 North Rodeo Drive. In June, the company opened a 2,500 square-foot unit at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
The company is also introducing two units outside of California, including the store in Chicago that opened this month, and one in Aspen, Colo., scheduled to open by the end of the year.
But the highest concentration of stores is in California and Facchini said the three stores in the state will together pull a total of $7 million to $9 million in sales during the first year. With the help of Cristina Azario as chief designer and creative director, whom Fin.part hired from Donna Karan in April and who is spearheading a move toward a broader merchandise selection, that sales projection could grow, he said.
“I’m being conservative [on projections],” he said. “The Beverly Hills shop alone is heading toward $3 million.”
Fin.part, run by Facchini and business partner Giancarlo Arnaboldi, had sales of approximately $117.2 million in the first six months ended June 30. Fin.part, also the parent of Maska, Moncler and Marina Yachting, sold its Bonaparte hotel division for about $136 million and has earmarked about $50 million from that sale and warrants for the expansion of its fashion and luxury acquisitions.
Facchini said Fin.part has already turned the Frette brand around. It posted a loss of between $5 million and $6 million last year. This year it has posted a profit of between $5 million and $6 million, he said.
Globally, the brand is pulling in about $150 million in sales, including $50 million from retail in the U.S, he said. Frette operates 40 freestanding stores worldwide as well as franchises in the Mideast and Far East.
Frette’s homewear collection, called Frette to Wear, launched last spring and has been one business driver, racking up respectable sales, according to Facchini.
Indeed, the women’s wholesale division did about $2 million in sales during its first season in the U.S., selling at such retailers as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Barneys New York. Worldwide, the division is expected to post $4 million, at Harrods and other specialty stores.
The ready-to-wear collection, available at all California units, comprises easy wear-at-home items, such as silk and cashmere kimonos, pantaloons, ponchos, overshirts and drawstring pants.
Typical prices are $230 for a silk organza jacket, $1,650 for a cashmere kimono robe, $270 for a poplin nightshirt and $800 for a long cashmere knit dress. Cashmere pants sell for $650, a cashmere hooded pullover is $620 and suede slippers sell for $235.
The home fragrance collection includes room sprays and linen water at $20, sachets for $38 and candles from $31 to $39.
Facchini said the retailer is focused on combining home and fashion trends. For example, Azario plans to introduce a mink and silk blanket that takes its cue from fall.
“You are not allowed to ignore what’s going on in the fashion business,” said Facchini, noting the piece will sell for $10,000. “Trends, colors, fabrics — new and advanced — have to be, of course, transferred into the home business.”
Meanwhile, Frette’s sister company Henry Cotton’s, acquired by Fin.part more than two years ago, has slated a four-story, 10,000-square-foot unit in San Francisco for an opening on Saturday. A smaller 1,500-square-foot unit opened this summer at South Coast Plaza.
“It’s not quite as rapid an expansion as Frette,” said Bob Garey, president of the apparel division of Fin.part. “It’s quite a new brand [in the U.S.], so we’re taking it a little slower.”
Facchini projects volume from Henry Cotton’s to be on a par with Frette — about $8 million to $9 million during the first year. Henry Cotton’s wholesale business registered $9 million to $10 million in 2000, while retail volume reached $80 million worldwide, he said.
A third Henry Cotton’s door that had been slated to go in the 1,500 square-foot former Frette store on Rodeo Drive, has been put on hold, said Garey. Fin.part could instead open a Maska or Cerruti unit in the space, he said. As reported, Fin.part acquired 51 percent of Nino Cerruti this month for approximately $70 million and has plans to double the $250 million-a-year business.
“It would be very premature to make any assumptions,” said Garey, noting the company will not give up the space. “We’re weighing those issues now at the beginning of construction,” he said.
Garey said rolling out Henry Cotton’s in the U.S. by way of California was purely coincidence. “We actually looked in New York and Florida, the Bal Harbour area, at the same time,” he said. “It just happened that these locations came up and they were very much to our liking.”
Garey said future Henry Cotton’s stores could pop up in New York, Florida or Chicago. There are currently 20 Henry Cotton’s stores worldwide. The sportswear line is also sold in the U.S. at Bloomingdale’s.
Remo Ruffini, a designer Fin.part plucked from European brand New England this year, is emphasizing traditional tailoring in relaxed silhouettes and bold colors and patterns.
Henry Cotton’s prices are lower than Frette’s, with woven polo shirts selling from $75 to $85 and pants at about $125. All categories, including Moncler, the company’s men’s and women’s ski line, will have a presence in the Henry Cotton’s store in San Francisco.
Garey said the Henry Cotton’s label already has a strong business in small specialty stores in California, such as Ron Herman Fred Segal Melrose here and Fred Segal in Santa Monica.
“Californians really understand the product,” he said.

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